CALLS to transform the rusting hulk of HMS Illustrious into a new Falklands War memorial have today been described as ‘unrealistic’.
The iconic aircraft carrier is due to make her final voyage from Portsmouth next month, bound for scrap in a Turkish breaker’s yard.
But with the clock counting down on the ship’s last days in her home city, David Campbell Bannerman, East of England MEP, has called for an urgent U-turn to be made to save the aging carrier as a national treasure.
The Euro politician says Britain should take a leaf out of America’s books when it comes to preserving its modern maritime heritage – the US, he says, has preserved a flotilla of Second World War warships larger than the current Royal Navy.
‘The sad reality is that Britain is more interested in conserving ships if they have been sunken for at least 50 years; ideally 500,’ he added.
He said, with Brexit approaching, that now was the ‘perfect opportunity’ for the UK to reassess its ‘national identity, heritage and legacy’ and ‘celebrate British engineering excellence again’.
And he said the move by the Ministry of Defence to scrap Illustrious for £2.1m was a ‘tragedy’.
He added: ‘We do not have a single post-World War Two grey warship preserved in this country – despite all those sacrifices made to liberate the Falkland Islands at a serious loss of lives and fellow ships.’
But the David Rogers, vice-chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association said the plan would never work.
Mr Rogers, who served on Illustrious, claimed it could cost upwards of £10m to fix the veteran vessel’s aging hull.
The sad reality is that Britain is more interested in conserving ships if they have been sunken for at least 50 years; ideally 500,David Campbell Bannerman, East of England MEP
‘It would be fantastic if it could happen,’ he added. ‘But I think it’s all a bit late in the game now.
‘It’s going to take a lot to change the government’s mind at such a late stage.
‘To be honest, I feel it maybe unrealistic now – as much as we would love to see Illustrious preserved.’
The 22,000-tonne warship was decommissioned in Portsmouth in 2014 after a 32-year career.
She has sailed 900,000 miles on operations across the globe, including the aftermath of the Falklands War.
She will be scrapped at Turkey’s Leyal Ship Recycling site next month.